I thought I would document the making of a particular scene for my next story: Petunia. Turns out, it’s been a tough one. That’s actually good because now I can show a less glamorous side of the artistic process that is absolutely necessary if you want to create something to match your artistic vision.
So, the vision for this scene is a leviathan sea creature rising from the deep and carrying Petunia up above the waves. I know I want it to be dramatic, and that I want the sea creature to be a massively imposing beast.
I almost always start of with a very small thumbnail sketch in pencil & watercolor. This lets me easily see all of the large color shapes & contrasts. So far, so good.
When I’ve got a thumbnail I’m happy with, I’ll do a larger ink & watercolor version. This time I tried switching the cloud layer, but because it has to blend with the previous image, I probably won’t keep it that way. This is my first attempt at creating the creature, and my first mistake. In hind sight I should have been doing pages and pages of creature sketches before ever getting to this point.
But, instead, I went ahead and started painting on the 14″ tall panel I have been using for the story. I got as far as you see here, before realizing I really wasn’t crazy about the creature, and needed to go back and rethink the design.
Ahh, here we go – that’s more like it, right?
So I take my favorite sketch, and re-draw it with a grid the size of the space I have to work. This allows me to draw freely first, and then fit the drawing to the picture space after. Now it’s just a matter of transferring the new creature onto the final painting.
To accomplish that I draw a scaled up grid over the existing painting using chalk. The chalk will easily wipe off with water so I much prefer it to pencil. Then I just copy the sketch onto the panel and start painting!
Hmmmm… Well, it doesn’t look right. This is supposed to be a leviathan of the deep. Cold blooded, lurking below the waves. Menacing. A predator at the top of the food chain. Not a happy go lucky blimp with wings and bug eyes. Drat. Back to the sketch-pad.
After another round of pencil sketches & various studies, I’m feeling pretty happy with this one. Take three.
By now you know the drill.
So I’ve taken this a bit farther in the rendering. I’m not 100% happy with the creature – it’s still not old and grumpy enough – but I think I can work with it with textures and small changes here and there. For now though, after all of these steps, the best thing I can do is put it aside and work on another scene for a while. It can take a few days for your mental image of the painting to catch up with what is already on the canvas, and I don’t want to rush things.
So that’s all for now folks! Hope you enjoyed this quick glimpse into the sometimes torturous process of illustration!
Hi again! So it has been almost two whole months since this post, and I wanted to share with you all the final steps. As I said, I did put it aside, and I went on to illustrating another scene. This scene features the same creature, but in a more menacing situation. Here’s a really bad photo showing the first take at painting that scene:
Getting the chance to start fresh helped me to rethink the teeth, the skin, the eyes, and a whole bunch of other things that had bothered me before. So, when I finally went back to the first scene, it was a breeze to get a way more impressive image:
Basically, my process is inherently iterative. I’m sure there are illustrators out there who can envision what they want right away and paint it – and I envy them! But for me it’s a process.